Attia Hosain was born into a feudal family in Lucknow, north India in 1913 and grew up knowing many of the major political and literary figures of the time. When Independence came to India and Pakistan in 1947, she was among the most privileged and perceptive observers of the partition of the sub-continent.

Her husband Ali Bahadur Habibullah was posted to London in early 1947, and she would spend much of the rest of her life in the onetime capital of Empire. Perhaps this distance contributed to the keen insight displayed in what has since emerged as one of the finest novels about those tumultuous days, Sunlight on a Broken Column. (1961).

Attia Hosain's life encapsulates many of the personal contradictions and difficult choices that faced so many people then and now. She left the divisions of religion in one part of the world, only to find that they still matter decades later in another apparently secular country.

A longtime BBC Urdu programme presenter to both India and Pakistan, she also had a successful career in theater and other media for half a century until she died on January 23, 1998.

Attia Hosain was interviewed by Omar Khan, Producer of in London on May 19, 1991. The interview was aranged by the writer Aamer Hussain. It is presented in its entirety with a few punctuation edits. It is the first in a triptych to include interviews with Attia Hosain's late brother-in-law, Ishaat Habibullah and sister-in-law, Tazeen Faridi.

Press the plus icon on views of smaller images on the interview pages to see larger versions in the images gallery.

Press the play icon during the interview sections to listen to the relevant portion of the interview using the RealAudio player. Under the main audio tab, all the sound selections - with images unseen elsewhere - can be heard.

Most of these images, and all the family ones, are copyright The Literary Estate of Attia Hosain, with many thanks to daughter Shama Habibullah for her invaluable help.

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Image © The Literary Estate of Attia Hosain (LEAH)
© Harappa 2004